Caroline of Brunswick

Portrait by Gainsborough Dupont (c. 1795). Image Credit: WikiCommons.

By Amy-Jane Humphries

Caroline of Brunswick (1768-1821) was Queen of the United Kingdom and Hanover from January 1820 until her death in August 1821. Her marriage to the future George IV was over before it had even begun. The pair separated after less than a year and Caroline would never be crowned queen.

Caroline was the youngest surviving daughter of the Duke of Brunswick and his wife, Princess Augusta of Great Britain. Like her future husband, therefore, Caroline was a grandchild of George II.

From 1782, Caroline had several proposals from suitors but by her twenty-third birthday she remained unmarried. Caroline herself said that she had been prevented from marrying a man of a lower station by her father. There were, however, scurrilous rumours of a secret pregnancy.

Caroline came to be engaged to her cousin, the Prince of Wales. It was a triumph for her mother who had toiled to have her Brunswick children marry into the British royal family. The pair were not destined to find happiness together, however.

Image Credit: Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

George was, for starters, married – albeit unlawfully as the Royal Marriages Act rendered the union void. He also behaved terribly at the wedding, turning up drunk and spending most of the evening unconscious. They separated after the birth of their daughter Charlotte in 1796.  

Rumours of lovers began to plague Caroline, and these did not cease when she moved to Italy in 1814. There, she employed Bartolomeo Pergami who quickly became more than just a servant. Rumours about them living effectively as man and wife were all over Europe.

Drawing of Caroline and Pergami. Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Attempts were made to formally separate the royal couple, but this was halted by the death of George III. Caroline was very popular with the public who loathed George IV. Despite the humiliating ‘trial’ in which she was accused of adultery with Pergami, Caroline remained popular. 

Caroline was prohibited from attending the coronation in 1821 but she turned up at Westminster Abbey and was barred entry. That evening that she fell ill, and she lingered for three weeks before dying on 7th August. She was taken back to Germany and buried in Brunswick Cathedral.

Recommended Reading

Flora Fraser, The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline (London: Bloomsbury, 2012)

Jane Robins, Rebel Queen. The Trial of Queen Caroline (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006).

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